National Immigration Law Center
Sign up for email updates.

Our mission is to defend & advance the rights & opportunities of low-income immigrants and their family members.

Toolkit | Access to Driver's Licenses


Legislative Testimony, Research, and Related Issues

Legislative Testimony


Related Issues


Legislative Testimony

Testimony for the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on HB 789

"The ACLU of Maryland supports HB 789, which would create a limited-use driver’s license.  Limited-use driver’s licenses would help ensure that more Marylanders have access to the basic necessities of daily life, would improve public safety and security, and would be consistent with the standards set forth in the federal REAL ID Act of 2005." (ACLU of Maryland*)

Testimony for the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on SB 715

"The ACLU of Maryland strongly supports this much-needed proposal to expand Maryland residents’ access to a license to drive. Without a license to drive, individuals cannot perform the most essential daily functions and activities, such as taking their children to school, going to medical visits, grocery shopping, keeping medical appointments, or going to and from their places of employment. In addition, expanding access to licenses to drive is critical for highway safety." (ACLU of Maryland*)

Testimony in Support of SB 68, SB 628, and HB 6037 to Allow Undocumented Immigrants Access to Driver’s Licenses

"First, we discuss the policy benefits of granting undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses. Second, we discuss the Legislature’s legal authority to expand access to licenses. Third, we discuss the successes other states have had in making driver’s licenses more widely available, including the documentation policies they have used to issue secure, verifiable licenses. Fourth, we briefly discuss additional implementation issues." (Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, Yale Law School; Counsel for Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT*)

Statement on Bill 20-275, the “District of Columbia Driver’s Safety Amendment Act of 2013” 

"The ACLU of the Nation’s Capital supports the right of undocumented immigrants to enjoy the protections and freedoms provided by the U.S. Constitution. Bill 20-275 creates the opportunity for undocumented DC residents to obtain driver’s licenses, but Section 8c(d) would make those licenses distinguishable from the driver’s licenses issued to DC citizen residents. Distinguishable driver’s licenses establish a lower-tier ID for undocumented immigrants, rendering them vulnerable to discrimination and harassment by businesses, landlords, security guards, police officers, and other government agents." (ACLU of the Nation’s Capital*)


Unlicensed to Kill

"Previous studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety have found that approximately one in five fatal crashes involved an unlicensed or invalidly licensed driver. This study presents new data on unlicensed and invalidly licensed drivers in fatal crashes over years 2007–2009, and examines trends in crashes involving unlicensed or invalidly licensed drivers from 1990 through 2009." (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Washington DC, Nov. 2011)

Deciding Who Drives: State Choices Surrounding Unauthorized Immigrants and Driver’s Licenses

This report “highlights the decisions and experiences of policymakers and issuing agencies in 11 jurisdictions that issue driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants.” It identifies four areas in which these states have taken different approaches: scope (covering expected application numbers and cost); eligibility standards; issuance procedures; and outreach and education. It concludes that it is essential for states to plan carefully in “assessing the affected population and accounting for the needs of issuing agencies”; to use available expertise to design their programs to meet the needs of target groups and take into account existing workloads; and to ensure that the target groups know about the license-issuing process. (The Pew Charitable Trusts, Aug. 2015)

Licensing Immigrant Motorists in Illinois and Improving Road Safety for All

"In the State of Illinois, licensing undocumented motorists would conserve resources, increase road safety, and create additional revenue in fees. This brief suggests policy options that would provide a legal means for undocumented immigrants to drive to work and, consequently, increase both road safety and State revenues." (Diana M. Guelespe & Ruth Gomberg-Munoz, 2012*)

Final Report and Recommendations of the Undocumented Motorist Safety & Insurance Task Force

Summarizes the work of the Delaware Undocumented Motorist Safety & Insurance Task Force, established by a 2104 General Assembly Concurrent Resolution. The report describes how allowing all drivers to be tested and insured serves public safety and recognizes the contribution of undocumented immigrants to the Delaware economy and the state's communities. It recommends that the Delaware legislature pass legislation authorizing a driving-privilege card, as well as a “Trust Act” that would prevent use of information provided in an application about the applicant's undocumented status from being used for other purposes. (Delaware Undocumented Motorist Safety & Insurance Task Force, Dec. 2014)

Estimation of Fatal Crash Rates for Suspended/Revoked and Unlicensed Drivers in California

This California Dept. of Motor Vehicles report concludes that drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked and unlicensed drivers “are much more hazardous on the road than are validly licensed drivers. Compared to licensed drivers, those who drive without a valid license are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash relative to their exposure.” (Sukhvir S. Brar, Research and Development Branch, Licensing Operations Division, Calif. Dept. of Motor Vehicles, Sept. 2012)

Recession Marked by Bump in Uninsured Motorists: IRC Analysis Finds One in Seven Drivers Are Uninsured

This news release says: "In a new study, Uninsured Motorists, 2011 Edition, IRC estimates the percentage of uninsured drivers countrywide and in individual states for 2008 and 2009. The IRC estimates are based on the ratio of uninsured motorist (UM) insurance claim frequency to bodily injury (BI) claim frequency." An attached map and table show the percent of uninsured motorists by state in 2009, according to the Insurance Research Council's estimates. (Insurance Research Council news release, Apr. 21, 2011)

Living in Car Culture Without a License

Details the benefits to individuals and communities of providing access to driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants. The report explains that communities suffer when driving restrictions prevent their residents from participating fully in economic and social life. It also examines how expanding access to driver’s licenses contributes to public safety, while failing to offer licenses contributes to a hostile environment with long-term negative effects on communities. It notes that the REAL ID Act does not prevent states from issuing licenses to eligible drivers, regardless of their immigration status. (Sarah E. Hendricks, Ph.D, Immigration Policy Center, Apr. 24, 2014)

Assessment of the Socioeconomic Impacts of SB 1080 on Immigrant Groups

Study of the impact of Oregon’s law imposing immigration restrictions on driver’s licenses. From the report's abstract: "Interviews with nearly 400 Spanish-speaking Oregon residents, conducted in the Summer of 2009, indicate distress and uncertainty in the Latino community, fear of deportation arising from a traffic stop, a significant number of people driving without a license and adjustments within households that reduce access to employment, education, medical and social services, church attendance and recreation. The full range and magnitudes of impacts cannot be known with certainty until SB 1080 is fully implemented in 2016, and the economy has recovered...." (Mary C. King, et al., prepared for the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, June 2011)

Results from a Nationwide Survey of DACA Recipients Illustrate the Program’s Impact

A survey of 546 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in 34 states and the District of Columbia found that after receiving DACA, 89 percent of respondents obtained a driver’s license or state ID for the first time, 21 percent bought their first car, and 96 percent of those who bought a car bought auto insurance. The average cost of car purchases in the sample was $22,559 for new cars and $9,607 for used cars. These purchases boost state revenues, with most states collecting between 3 and 6 percent of the price in sales tax, as well as registration and title fees.  The report also illustrates that the DACA grantees experienced a 45 percent wage increase, as well as an improved ability to complete their education. (Tom K. Wong, Kelly K. Richter, Ignacia Rodriguez, and Philip E. Wolgin, July 9, 2015)

Related Issues

The High Cost of Immigration Enforcement in Colorado: Social and Economic Consequences of Article 29 of Title 29 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (SB90)

Using data gathered from a statewide hotline, this study calculated economic and social costs of law enforcement involvement in immigration enforcement, including lost wages, lost jobs, and changing work habits. Seventy-five percent of the hotline sample was reported to ICE following a driving related incident, including speeding, failure to use a turn signal, broken taillights and not having a valid Colorado driver’s license. The study demonstrates the centrality of driving offenses in the involvement of law enforcement in immigration enforcement and provides a model for calculating the costs of the involvement. (Colorado Fiscal Institute, Mar. 26, 2013)

Misplaced Priorities: SB 90 and the Costs to Local Communities

This study does not specifically deal with driver’s licenses or other driving-related offenses; however, it provides a useful model for calculating the costs for a  state or locality of arresting, reporting and detaining possible undocumented immigrants charged with low level crimes. As indicated by the subsequent Colorado Fiscal Institute report, driving offenses, including driving without a valid Colorado driver's licenses, constitute the bulk of the offenses leading to immigration enforcement. (Colorado Fiscal Institute, Dec. 1, 2012)


* This organization gave NILC permission to upload this item to NILC’s website.